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Understanding Immunotherapy

Immunotherapy_Infographic

Image is from Cancer Research Catalyst – American Association for Cancer Research

Immunotherapy also known as biologic therapy is a type of treatment that induces or enhances the body’s immune system instead of using medicines. This process is usually done to treat cancer by stimulating the immune system to become more active in attacking cancer cells or by sustaining the body with man-made immune system proteins.

How Does the Immune System Work?

The immune system is the sum of all components that work together to maintain the normal functions of body organs. These components include but not limited to white blood cells, nutrients, and organ functions.

When the surface of skin is wounded, white blood cells work to heal the wound by eliminating foreign substances. When the wound is larger, it requires a lot of white blood cells to cover the wounded area. This will result in the appearance of lymph nodes near the area. This is where white blood cells build up.

In the process of eliminating foreign substances such as bacteria, germs, and cancer cells, body nutrients such as vitamin C may work to repair the damaged tissues and collagen.

Meanwhile, body organs work together to prevent disease-causing agents to stay inside the body. Kidney works to filter toxins, which are excreted through the urine. Digestive system separate important substances needed by the body from waste. The heart continues to pump blood to carry white blood cells and red blood cells needed to heal wounds.

These are some examples of how the immune system work. The immune system is not a single substance nor a single organ. It is an integration of several body systems that work together to protect the body from certain diseases.

The Immune System as Treatment for Cancer

There still no single medicine that can cure cancer. So far, an effective way to suppress the spread of cancer cells is through the immune system. The immune system serves as the police inside the body. It detects unwanted substances that may infect any area of the body.

However, cancer cells are not detected by the immune system as they appear to be like normal cells by of sending signals to the PD-1 CTLA-4 receptors. These signals confuse the immune system. This is why even a healthy body with strong immune system cannot prevent cancer.

Nonetheless, there is a way to make cancer cells detected by the immune system. The use of immunotherapy drugs such as inhibitors can disrupt the signals that are sent by cancer cells. This will let the cancer cells exposed to the immune system. Cytokines and cancer vaccines are examples of these inhibitors.

Monoclonal Antibodies

Monoclonal antibodies are man-made immune system proteins. These proteins attach to cancer cells thereby flagging the cancer cells to be recognized by the immune system. On the other hand, monoclonal antibodies work to block the abnormal proteins in cancer cells, so they can also be used to prevent cancer cells from spreading.

These are examples of man-made antibodies:

  • Pembrolizumab (Keytruda)
  • Nivolumab (Opdivo)
  • Ipilimumab (Yervoy)

Non-Specific Immunotherapies

Non-specific immunotherapies are used to boost the immune system to directly stop and kill cancer cells. Examples of these are interferons and interleukin’s.

Conclusion

The use of the immune system is still the most recommended method in the treatment of cancer. It only needs the help of inhibitors to let it work properly on the target. The problem with the immune system is that it is not intelligent enough to keep cancer cells from being hidden. This is why there is still a need for human intervention with the help of man-made antibodies.

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Myths About Vaccinations

child-getting-vaccinated

Myths about vaccination

Recently, there has been a significant reduction in the number of children getting vaccinated. While you make think it is no good, vaccination combined with clean water and sanitation, are among the most effective public health measures saving millions of lives. Those who claim they have demerits and serious downsides will often design canards which they use to scare away individuals from letting their children be vaccinated. If you are not familiar with the claims, you could easily fall into their anti-vaccine rhetoric campaign. It is, therefore, vital to discern the information out there and know what is true and what is not. Here are a few of the myths

  • Vaccines cause autism

Back in 1998, the publication of the Lancet paper was the first instance of the suggestion that measles mumps rubella vaccine was associated with autism. The piece has since been discredited as a result of procedural errors as well as undisclosed conflicts of interests regarding finances. Andrew Wakefield, the publisher of the article, had his license withdrawn and the piece retracted from the Lancet. Nonetheless, the hypothesis was not taken for granted and a series of studies followed theater. None of the studies found a link between the vaccine and the potential of developing autism.

Today, many studies have been set to try and find the origin of autism with the aim of discrediting the autism-vaccination link theory. Many of the studies have identified the autism symptoms in children properly before receiving the MMR vaccination.

  • The immune system of infants can’t stand many vaccines

You may think otherwise, but infant immune systems are considerably active. Considering the number of antibodies available in the blood, an infant theoretically has the ability to respond to more than 10,000 vaccines at a go. It doesn’t matter if the fourteen scheduled vaccines were administered at once. The truth is that it would only use 0.1% of the baby’s immune capacity. The infant’s immune system could just never be overwhelmed since the cells of the body are constantly getting replenished. In essence, the number of bacteria and disease causing organisms the baby is exposed to every day is nothing compared to the vaccines. There may be more vaccines today than some time back, but again, they are more efficient. Infants are exposed to less immunologic components overall compared to children in the past.

  • Natural immunity is better than immunity received through vaccination

In some instances, natural immunity, which involves actually contracting a disease and getting ill leads to a stronger immunity to the infection. Nevertheless, the demerits of this approach outweigh the relative benefits by far. If for instance, you want to gain immunity to measles by falling sick first, you’d be facing one in five hundred chances of death from related symptoms. Conversely, those who have had a severe allergic reaction from the MMR vaccine is not more than one in a million.

  • Here are unsafe toxins in vaccines

There has been a concern over the use of mercury, formaldehyde, and aluminum in vaccines. These elements, for sure, are harmful when introduced into the human body. However, only trace amounts of these elements are used in vaccines approved by the FDA. Actually, according to CDC and the FDA, our metabolic systems produce higher rates of formaldehyde, and there has been no scientific claim that moderate amounts of mercury, aluminum, and formaldehyde can be detrimental to general health.

The above are some of the misinformation spread by the anti-vaccines campaigners.

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Immunity-Boosting Foods

foods-that-boost-immune-system-health

Image is from Fitness World

When it comes to your immune system, getting proper nutrition cannot be underestimated. The antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals you receive through your food are what keeps your body strong enough to fight off infection. It is important to make the following foods a part of your diet to ensure a good defense against colds and flu.

Beef

Beef will boost your immune system, because:

  • It is a good source of zinc, and zinc aids in the development of white blood cells.
  • These white blood cells improve both immune function and response.
  • It’s protein supports the building of antibodies to fight off infection.

Oily Fish

These types of fish include salmon, mackerel, and tuna. Rich in omega-3 fatty acids, these fish:

  • Help reduce harmful inflammation in the body.
  • Control chronic inflammation that can keep your immune system from working properly.
  • Can prevent cold, flu, and more serious diseases.

They also contain Vitamin D, and as daylight hours decrease during the colder months of the year, your Vitamin D stores are depleted. Vitamin D:

  • Is critical to fighting off colds and flu.
  • Reduces the frequency and duration of colds and flu.

Leafy Greens

Dark, leafy greens such as kale, spinach, arugula, and Swiss chard, all contain significant amounts of Vitamin C which:

  • If consistently taken, they will shorten the duration of a cold or possibly prevent it altogether.
  • If cooked, they will shrink in size so you can consume more of them.
  • Increases white blood cell production.

Carrots and Sweet Potatoes

These vegetables are rich in beta-carotene. Our bodies convert beta-carotene to Vitamin A that:

  • Keeps the mucus membranes that line your nose, throat, and gastrointestinal tract, along with your skin, healthy.
  • By keeping these membranes healthy, it builds your first line of defense against colds and flu.

Chicken Soup

You really should eat chicken soup when you’re sick, and when you’re not. It combines many elements that boost your immune system. Hot chicken soup:

  • Raises the temperature in your airways, which loosens mucus secretions.
  • Releases cysteine, an amino acid that resembles a drug used to treat bronchitis.
  • Contains a high concentration of vegetables and protein that provide many different vitamins.

Garlic

According to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, garlic contains allicin, which has antibacterial and antimicrobial properties. Garlic has been shown to:

  • Cause you to experience fewer and less severe colds.
  • Promote balanced gut flora, which rids the body of viruses, bacteria, and toxins.
  • Contain the most antioxidants when eaten raw.

Yogurt

Yogurt contains microorganisms, or “good bacteria”, that keeps you healthy. It:

  • Is a probiotic food that replenishes this good bacteria.
  • Promotes digestive health.
  • Helps prevent stomach ailments.
  • Lowers the risk of upper respiratory infections.

Tea

While a hot cup of tea can soothe a sore throat and break up chest congestion, it also provides other benefits. All tea, green, black, or white contains catechins, which:

  • Are a group of antioxidants that contain flu-fighting properties.
  • Protect you from cancer and heart disease.
  • Increase your metabolism.
  • Boost your overall immunity.

Dark Chocolate

The nutritional benefits of cocoa are often overlooked, because many chocolate treats contain sugar and saturated fat. However, chocolate:

  • Contains polyphenols that are disease-fighting antioxidants.
  • Also contains a high concentration of zinc.
  • Can be consumed daily if you stick to 1/4 ounce servings.

The following foods are also recommended:

  • Oysters
  • Anise Seeds
  • Citrus
  • Milk
  • Mushrooms
  • Skinned Turkey Breast
  • Blueberries
  • Brazil Nuts
  • Sunflower Seeds
  • Oats

With this abundant selection of immunity-boosting foods, we can enjoy better health during cold and flu season and all year around.

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Understanding Foodborne Outbreaks

frozen-vegetables-and-canned-fruit

Image is from stopdrugshortages.org

A foodborne outbreak occurs when there are two or more cases of confirmed illness after consumption of a specific food product. These outbreaks involve the CDC as well as other public health officials as staff members try to control, manage and prevent these types of occurrences. Many times, investigative work is needed in order to determine the scope of the outbreak, the extent and the original source. Learning from each situation is what helps prevent these outbreaks from occurring again in the future.

Investigation

Once reports are made that a foodborne illness was contracted, public health officials work with regulatory officials to collect a large amount of data. They want to know what the food or product was that caused the illness, what were the symptoms, what was the outcome, what batch was this from and so on. This information will be used long term for better quality control and regulations that are enforced by the U.S. Sometimes a recall will need to be issued in order to prevent more people from getting sick. Often times, a warning is all that is needed.

Some data will point specifically to a foodborne outbreak and this includes:

  • A pattern to the illness. Either all the cases were in a short period of time or from the same germ.
  • A larger number of people are ill within the same area than normal.
  • People who otherwise have no connection to one another are ill but ate at the same restaurant or purchased the same product.
  • Common point of confirmed contamination.
  • A certain germ of pathogen is found at a suspected restaurant or store.

Prevention

Ultimately, United States regulatory agencies want to protect the public and prevent foodborne outbreaks from occurring again. Investigation is important when an outbreak occurs, but ongoing research is also part of successful prevention. While not every case of foodborne outbreak is solved, many times there is at least a suspected source of the problem. This leads to better prevention at food producing facilities but also better prevention and investigation methods on a nationwide level.

Ongoing Reporting And Monitoring

An original complaint or report comes from a local or state level in most instances. From there, public health authorities will investigate the claim and involve the CDC when multiple states have become affected by a certain issue. Reports are compiled that include the number of illnesses that are present, hospitalizations, deaths, symptoms, toxins and chemicals that may have caused the issue.

Common symptoms of a foodborne outbreak typically include symptoms that are similar to food poisoning. Stomach upset, vomiting, diarrhea, headache, aches, etc. Seeking medical assistance can help reduce the severity and danger of the illness and can also lead to preventing other people from getting sick. It takes many different people to prevent foodborne outbreaks from occurring. It starts with the farms that produce our food and ends with the location selling and manufacturing our food. Proper quality control and agricultural practices are ideal for keeping everyone in the United States safe.

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